Sunday Conversation: CABA president Diane Stoddart zaps energy into organization

Published November 21 2017
Updated November 27 2017

Illinois native Diane Stoddart moved to Tampa 20 years ago, where she established her long career in the insurance industry. Now she’s looking to establish a stronger community presence for the Carrollwood Area Business Association as its 2017-18 president. An avid sports fan, she enjoys watching football and baseball, as well as spending time with her recently adopted rescue dog, Frank Zappa. The Duck Tolling Retriever and Australian Shepherd mix just got his AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate, and Stoddart is contemplating training him to be a therapy dog.

Last month, Frank Zappa dressed as Raymond, and Stoddart dressed as DJ Kitty, passed out candy to trick-or-treaters at CABA’s Trunk or Treat community event held at Gaither High School.

"The kids loved him," said Stoddart.

Stoddart recently spoke with Tampa Bay Times correspondent Danielle Hauser about her goals as the CABA president, leadership, her musical talent, and how Frank Zappa got his name.

Why did you want to be CABA president?

I’ve always taken leadership roles, everywhere I’ve gone, so it just seemed natural. When I first joined CABA, I was Rookie of the Year. I was on the Board of Directors the next year, and the next year, and it felt like a place to be. I like to be where you’re making things happen, so it was just the logical next step.

The theme for your presidency is "Community & Business Aligned." How do you plan on accomplishing that?

Partly by what we did at CABA’s Trunk or Treat, by bringing the local businesses to the community to recognize us and start conversations with people that live here. If we can communicate strong enough to Mr. & Mrs. Smith who live across the street to say, ‘Look for someone who lives here and is building a business here first,’ maybe they will. We’re very good at promoting within ourselves, member to member, but we’re not as good at reaching out. If we can take that next step, I think it’ll be really strong for the whole community.

While you’re serving as CABA President, you still have your job as a long term care consultant. Tell me a little about long term care insurance.

Most of my clients need me 25 years before they think they need me. And they don’t want to think they need me, but they will because we’re all getting older. You’re really buying the help, you’re buying people that you can trust that are licensed and trained and know what they’re doing. Most of the people who buy it are in their 50s, and they’re not going to use it until they’re in their 80s, so again it’s 25 years out. Most of the people that buy it are either taking care of a parent and realizing that the parent has insurance and is working and they think this is what I have to do, or the parent doesn’t have insurance and they’re going broke and they think this is what I don’t want to do. So I help.

Have you always been drawn to leadership roles?

Yes. I was a bill collector in Illinois for hospitals, and when I first moved here I interviewed with a bunch of different collection agencies because that’s what I knew. And I took the one that was paying less, but the manager had just been fired and there was an interim manager in there temporarily taking over, and I thought, ‘This is a good place to be.’ Eventually I was the manager.

Your son, Ben, a student at USF, introduced you at the CABA Awards & Installation dinner. What story did he tell about you?

When he was in preschool, the school was very resourceful and let the parents let kids be responsible for their own decisions. One of the things that they said was that if your kid doesn’t want to go to school in the morning and you have trouble waking them up in the morning, it’s okay if you bring them in their pajamas. So I did. And the whole way to school he’s trying to get his clothes on in the backseat, but he couldn’t, so he had to go to school in his pajamas that day. He never, ever, ever had trouble waking up, ever, from then on.

Frank Zappa is your recently adopted rescue dog. Who came up with that name?

Both my husband, Paul, and I. I wanted a regular type name, so I said let’s find a dog and name him Frank. So we didn’t know him first, we knew the name first. And then Paul said we should call him Frank Zappa, but I said, ‘I am going to call him Frank.’ So we looked at three adoption agencies and we were going through all these pictures and we saw him and we said, ‘It’s Frank!’ Right away we both knew, this is Frank. So we went and met him and he was perfect, and two days later we got him. Frank Zappa is one of my husband’s favorite guitarists.

Your husband is a songwriter and musician. Are you musically inclined also?

I play flute, but I haven’t played in a year and a half because I have been so busy. When I do have time and I do play, we have a lot of fun. A lot of the songs he writes, he puts flute in it.

How long have you played the flute?

I started in 5th grade, and I played until high school, and then it wasn’t cool. And then I started again in college because it was cool again.

Sunday Conversation is edited for brevity and clarity. Contact Danielle Hauser at